Some of the best story ideas have come to “The Digs” from our readers and followers. Most of these stories have led to discoveries and we are sharing here one of them.
Remember a story from last month about the history of Pittsburgh’s beloved “Pamela’s”? Soon after we posted it, an email arrived challenging the popular notion that it was at Pamela’s where Pittsburgh’s tradition of serving magnificent breakfast and fantastic pancakes was invented, the tradition that has been attracting long lines of Pittsburghers, guests of the city and even celebrities. You saw it, you know how they congregate in lines that wrap around the corner for what has become known today as brunch. Well, that’s not unprecedented.
What was there before “Pamela’s,” you ask? As it turns out, “Pamela’s” followed and expanded upon the tradition set by a not less popular in the old days breakfast place called simply “The Pancake Kitchen.” It was founded in 1963 by Rudy Sokol and located exactly at 3703 Forbes Avenue, the Oakland address of Pamela’s today.
Rudy Sokol started his restaurant business in the early 60s and not in Oakland. It began in Monroeville, where Sokol ran a restaurant called “The Continental Pancake Kitchen” at the Terrace Motel. The business owner’s hopes were high, but there was a lease dispute that forced Sokol to look for a different location. Soon after, he opened The Lincoln Pancake Kitchen on Lincoln Highway. A fire destroyed that place. In spite of setbacks, Sokol persevered and eventually moved his restaurant to Oakland in 1963.
It quickly became a popular location in the neighborhood. Every table offered rich choices of flavored syrups and because of its proximity to Forbes Field many Pittsburgh Pirates ate there. That’s where the legendary third baseman Richie Hebner enjoyed his pancakes.
In 1987, Rudy Sokol’s health declined and he no longer could run his business. After his death, Sokol’s daughter sold “The Pancake Kitchen” to Pamela J. Cohen, the co-owner of Pamela’s.
Ready for the final twist? That email about “The Continental Kitchen” came from Rudy Devine, the grandson of Rudy Sokol. He was generous to share with us details of his grandfather’s story, the scanned postcard and links to the historic images you see here.